Review: Joffrey Ballet at Clowes

April 11, 2011
Rita Kohn


4.5 stars

Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University.

Powerful on all fronts, 21 dancers of the Joffrey Ballet delivered with finesse four very different styles by four challenging choreographers.

Three couples dancing in sequence embraced Jerome Robbins’ In the Night (1970) as a visual treatise on three aspects of love, working into the heart of Chopin’s music played live off-stage by pianist Paul James Lewis.

Each closed with a surprise; all three parts demanded nuanced physicality and facial expression along with lifts to amaze. With all three couples on stage for the climax, Robbins teases us into thinking about where we are in the trinity. Anita Pociotti provided a meticulous re-staging.

If Robbins’ approach to pas de deux is sublime, George Balanchine’s is sly. He layers flirting onto the Italian folk dance Tarantella (1964), with two dancers relating viscerally as a dance within a dance taking off and landing in non-stop virtuosity and fancy footwork to the ever-changing tempos driving Gottschalk’s music (arranged by Hersey Kay).

Elyse Borne staged Abigail Simon and Graham Maverick in a tamer version of the original emotionally and technically charged performances by Patricia McBride and Edward Villella.

Gerald Arpino’s Round of Angels (1983) set on Mahler’s Adagietta from The Fifth Symphony was elevated by Christine Rocas and Jonathan Dummar as the friends and lovers destined to part and a male corps representing broken-winged angels. Inspired by an etching by Caveliere d’Arpino, this work, wrought with turbulence, plumbs the depths of loss when we know it is imminent.

Set on music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman, Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence (2008) boldly approaches the subtext of Jane Austen novels to vibrantly depict emotional textures in a regulated society where the ball in a grand house serves as the meeting and mating place.

Three segments in this performance showing vignettes of an assignation and of interactions between smaller groupings are book ended by a corps of eight men and eight women going through the motions of a stately dance suddenly pulled apart by pent up emotions. Liang’s commentary is heightened by Maria Pinto’s costume design with men in briefs and women first in stately gowns and eventually in chaste undergarments. Throughout, the lighting was superb.